28 August 2014

Nigeria: Ebola - Don't Rejoice Yet, Govt Tells Nigerians

Photo: Unicef
Special material was developed to support community outreach activities to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

The Federal Government has cautioned Nigerians against rejoicing over the current level of the containment of the Ebola Virus Disease in the country.

Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu, while briefing State House journalists after yesterday's Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, said it was too early to jubilate, noting that fresh cases were still possible among those currently under surveillance.

The minister stressed that containing the Ebola virus does not mean that it has been eliminated.

According to Chukwu, the fact that Nigeria is left with one case of Ebola implies that the virus is still an epidemic in the country, in line with the definition by the World Health Organisation.

He said though there had been a success story in terms of the containment, it was presumptuous to say the virus had been eliminated until the government gives a clean bill of health to all the contacts with the index case.

The minister said even when everyone infected had been treated and discharged; the country still ought to maintain vigilance.

"While Nigeria has successfully contained Ebola, it hasn't eliminated the disease. As we speak, there is a case we are still managing. And even that case we are still managing must also have had her own third degree contacts many of whom are part of this number of people that are under surveillance.

"So, until we give a clean bill of health to every contact, we cannot even say we have eliminated the disease. We will only stop being at risk when the very last case of Ebola virus disease under this current epidemic has gone. It is still possible that Nigeria may record between one to three new cases because there are people under surveillance.

"We should not move from panic to euphoria. Containment is like you have gotten an animal into a cage, but it is not yet dead. All the contacts have been traced to Patrick Sawyer who brought the virus to Nigeria. We're happy that we've contained it, but we have not eliminated the disease.

"Until we give a clean bill of health to all contacts, we can't say we have eliminated it. As long as people still travel from one country to another, every citizen of the world is still at risk."

Chukwu however said there was no reason to panic over mass gathering, saying Ebola was not the greatest killer in Nigeria.

According to him, since Sawyer brought the virus to Nigeria over a month ago, road accidents and terrorist attacks had claimed more lives than Ebola.

He said the government had not yet seen any reason to close the borders, noting however that if it becomes necessary, the government will do so.

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